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Labor promises 10 days of paid domestic violence leave if they’re elected

One woman is still being murdered once a week by a current or former partner in Australia.
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Domestic violence victims would receive 10 days paid leave if Labor wins the next federal election.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made the announcement this morning, coinciding with a White Ribbon Day breakfast at Parliament House.

“The stress of seeking legal advice, accessing services and medical treatment should not be compounded by fear of losing your job,” he wrote.

The promise is double the five days of legislated leave promised at the last election and Labor argues the change will increase employee retention and prevent loss of productivity for business.

While the opposition is challenging Turnbull’s government to match the pledge, they already have support from the Greens who have been calling for 10 days of paid family violence leave for years.

Earlier this year, the Fair Work Commission recently rejected a bid to make domestic violence leave a minimum standard for all workers and the Greens were unimpressed.

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“We won’t stop pushing for paid domestic violence leave,” Former Deputy Leader and spokesperson for women, Senator Larissa Waters.

Paid leave is essential because money is regularly the reason women are forced to stay in abusive relationships.

“For women to maintain their economic independence and give them the best chance of escaping from a violent situation, they need access to paid leave,” Senator Waters said.

“Paid domestic violence leave would allow employees to take time off work to attend court hearings, counselling, medical or legal appointments and find safe housing, whilst keeping employment.

“Raising awareness of domestic violence is commendable but we must also ensure the safety net available for the people we encourage to leave dangerous situations is robust as possible”.

Even without legislation, there is a number of businesses who already grant domestic violence leave including Medicare, CUB, Telstra, NAB, Virgin Australia, IKEA and Qantas.

In the Northern Territory, at least 22 organisations now include a class of policy for DV leave, including YWCA, Darwin.

“We make it very clear when people join us as staff that that is available to them and that it is kept confidential,” YWCA chief executive Jessica Watkinson said.

Shocking figures reveal that an average of one woman per week is murdered by a partner or former partner. Domestic violence victims need long term plans.

Last year, NSW Domestic Violence CEO Moo Baulch told HuffPost federal funding needs to be on the same level as the Victorian Government who committed $572 million to fund domestic violence services and initiatives.

“If we’re serious about tackling domestic violence we need a long term plan and the Federal Government needs to lead on this,” Baulch said.

With domestic violence murder cases taking years to work through in most cases, getting accurate data on the number of victims is practically impossible.

However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that in 2015, (excluding Tasmania and ACT) 158 people were murdered by a loved one in Australia.

Unsurprisingly, the stats also confirm a significant gender imbalance in the domestic violence sphere.

Women are assaulted by a partner or family member at almost twice the rate of strangers, whereas men are five times as likely to be assaulted by a male stranger than their spouse.

It may not be election time, but domestic violence still has devastating effects on Australian women and politicians should be intervening.

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